With over 35 state parks, we Virginians are lucky to have access to a wide variety of parks all dedicated to both the preservation and exploration of history and nature. But these parks are home to more than just the treasures of history and nature: Virginia State Parks are home to treasured memories and experiences that last a lifetime.
Here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, we have easy access to 6 of these treasured state parks.
First Landing State Park
Virginia Beach, VA
First Landing State Park is located along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach. This park is a short drive from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, I-264 and I-64, making it easily accessible from most of the Hampton Roads area.
As identified by its name, First Landing State Park is where English colonists first landed in 1607. The trails and waterways within this state park have been traveled by Native American tribes, English explorers and even pirates! Legend has it that Blackbeard himself even hid his ship within Narrows area of the park. Some even believe that portions of his treasure are still buried within the soils of First Landing State Park.
There is something for everyone at First Landing State Park, making it Virginia’s most-visited state park. There are a variety of landscapes for visitors to explore, from the sandy Chesapeake Bay beaches to over 20 miles of forest trails winding alongside lagoons and bald cypress swamps.
First Landing State Park features picnic areas, a boat ramp, camp store with bike rental, an outdoor courtyard, pavilion and amphitheater. Lodging options range from private cabins to tent and RV camping.
False Cape State Park
Virginia Beach, VA
False Cape State Park is located in Virginia Beach between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, a short drive from I-264 and I-64. False Cape State Park is one of the last remaining undeveloped areas on the Atlantic Coast, making it a destination for those looking to explore and experience nature in a more primitive manner.
Rich with history, False Cape State Park was once home to Native Americans, the historic Wash Woods community and the Coast Guard’s life-saving station.
Due to its undeveloped, primitive nature, The Back Bay Restoration Foundation operates the “Blue Goose Tram” which transports visitors through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and into False Cape State Park. Otherwise, False Cape State Park is only accessible via foot, bike, beach transport or boat. View the winter tram tour schedule here.
Kiptopeke State Park
Cape Charles, VA
Kiptopeke State Park is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, just 3 miles beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel. This park lines the Chesapeake Bay, with picturesque swimming beaches, a fishing pier, boat ramp and over 5 miles of hiking and biking trails. Kiptopeke State Park is known for its rich history, as it was explored by Captain John Smith in 1608.
Kiptopeke State Park is located along the Atlantic flyway, a bird migration route that runs along the Atlantic coast, making it a popular destination for bird watching.
Lodging options range from private lodges to tent and RV camping. A unique lodging option at Kiptopeke State Park is a yurt, which is part cabin-part tent.
Chippokes Plantation State Park
Chippokes Plantation State Park is located across the James River from Jamestown in Surry, Virginia (about an hour away from Norfolk and Virginia Beach). This park is known for being the oldest continually farmed plantations in the country–making it a popular destination for both agriculture and history buffs.
This park offers the opportunity to travel back in time while exploring the antebellum mansion, formal gardens, outbuildings and antique machinery within the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum.
Not everything at Chippokes Plantation State Park is antique, however. The park boasts charming amenities for guests such as overnight cabins, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, horseback riding, biking and hiking trails, picnic areas and more.
York River State Park
York River State Park is located in Williamsburg, Virginia. This park is known for its location at a delicate transition zone of the York River. Here, there is a blend of both fresh and saltwater, creating what is called an estuarine environment. Such environments provide a unique, rich habitat for marine and plant life.
York River State Park is also home to many fossil beds that have provided us with artifacts from the eras of both Colonial and Native Americans.
While exploring York River State Park, visitors can enjoy over 30 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. A popular destination for fishing, this park offers a boat ramp, fresh and saltwater fishing spots, a fishing pier, seasonal boat rental and more.
Belle Isle State Park
Belle Isle State Park is located in Lancaster, Virginia (approximately 2 hours away from Virginia Beach and Norfolk) along the Rappahannock River. It boasts over 7 miles of shoreline and a variety of landscapes ranging from sandy beaches, farmland and forest.
The variety doesn’t stop with the landscape of Belle Isle State Park. Visitors are sure to encounter a wide variety of wildlife as well. The diverse habitats at Belle Isle provide home to predatory birds such as blue herons, osprey, hawks and bald eagles. White-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, moles, reptiles and amphibians are also common.
Lodging features include the popular Bel Air home and Guest house, campgrounds and more. Need equipment? Not a problem at Belle Isle. Bicycle, canoe, kayak and motorboat rentals are available. Check out upcoming events at Belle Isle here.
Images sourced from Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. For more information about Virginia State Parks’ activities and amenities or to make reservations in one of the more than 1,800 campsites or 300 climate-controlled cabins, call the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at 800-933-PARK (7275) or visit VirginiaStateParks.gov.